Friday, July 31, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Feature on OneCause

A few days ago my sister, who many of you know is a Director of a preschool in Tucson, Arizona, sent out an email regarding a website she and her parents have been frequenting lately called OneCause. Her email gave some basic detail -- the site is a click through portal that leads to hundreds of merchants that her parents already shop at -- and I was intrigued.

The site costs nothing to join and it could not be easier to register, just providing a small amount of information gains access. Then each time you shop at the affiliated merchants just use the OneCause website to access their pages and voila!

You may be wondering why I have chosen to feature these folks on an Eco Fashion Friday. I have done so because many of the affiliated merchants are environmentally based and socially conscious clothing manufacturers. Fantastic!

By going through OneCause for your shopping needs, a percentage of the total is donated to the school or cause of your choice (varies by merchant). With just under 800 merchants on board it is almost impossible to count or list all of the fashion conscious choices but, with companies like Gaiam (who donates 3%) or Little Earth (4%) on board, it is easy to see how this Boston based company has already helped foster over $200 million in donations across 30,000 well deserving places in the ten short years it has been up and running.

My sister’s school, Adventure School in Tucson, could greatly benefit from this socially conscious shopping experience! I have registered with the site and chose Adventure School as the cause I want to contribute to. Next time I am shopping online I simply open the OneCause website, find my desired shop and go to it like normal.

Here is a good example:

I am traveling in November and likely will use Travelocity to book everything, keeping the process simplified. This particular company donates 1%. On a potential $1000 vacation that is a donation of $10 to the school. Over time those dollars really add up!

I hope that everyone will sign up and begin using OneCause as their primary portal into the online merchants they love. When selecting a school I do understand there are many choices but if you do not have children of your own in a currently supported school I strongly encourage everyone to select Adventure School in Tucson, AZ as your school to support.

Thanks everyone now get out and find those Green and environmentally responsible selections through this socially conscious manner!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Centralia PA Documentary Short

I filmed about thirty minutes of video during our travels through Centralia, PA and really wanted to put together a nice documentary about the town (or borough as I have recently been informed, sorry!). This is the final video in its entirety after editing. I think I found a new love, documentary filmmaking is really kind of fun. Next time I will try not to be so monotone though, sorry!

The website I used to create this video, One True Media, is cool. My mom introduced me to it and I suggest checking it out if you are a beginner like me, it is fairly simple to navigate and edit video, photos and text slides into one nice, neat movie.

Without further ado, here is my short film:

Centralia, Pennsylvania: A City Consumed by Invisible Flames

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From Burning Coal to Wind Power: A Weekend in PA Part II

Locust Ridge Wind Farm

After leaving Centralia we headed up the ridge to find the turbines we had seen the day before from the highway on the way in. What I never expected to find was that the project was so large or so accessible!

The Locust Ridge Wind Farm is a project consisting of approximately 51 turbines including 13 which were already put in place two years ago during the first phase of this extensive project. The ground covered by the entire project stretches over 10 miles which is why it is not only visible from the highway but from the back roads as well.

I snapped this shot on the way up the mountain. I am calling it my “money shot” because I feel it fully encapsulates rural Pennsylvania’s efforts to be environmentally responsible through the addition of this wind farm.

Once we arrived at the site there was a small entrance on the right. We are natural explorers so since the no trespassing sign was long worn we figured it was no big deal to check it out. Hey I’m a journalist after all!

Here is a shot that gives the idea of the scale of these babies from the ground. I have pointed out the top of Matt’s head; the full blade doesn’t even make it into the picture.

Iberdrola Renewables is the company behind the wind project which is slated to provide power to over 20,000 homes. Cool! This company is fairly innovative in their approach as they don’t just provide electricity but also natural gas, natural gas storage and energy plans to their rapidly growing customer base. They currently operate in 23 countries world wide and can supply their clean energy to over 800,000 people in the US alone.

Locust Ridge was the first wind farm Iberdrola initiated in the United States.

This project at Locust Ridge was only completed within the last year but the turbines are spinning and energy is being stored to provide a new and renewable, natural resource of power to the people of Schuylkill County in Pennsylvania. And they are certainly impressive to look at.

One of the communities who could take advantage of the 70,000 megawatt hours of power produced by this farm is Pottsville, the very town we stayed in this past weekend. After driving around the general geographic area for a couple days it is clear there are a vast number of valleys with homes and the rising ridges above them which could certainly benefit from such a resource.

With such a small footprint (only 150 square miles out of 5700 is actually utilized for the placement of the turbines) power could conceivably be supplied to all homes in the great state of Pennsylvania! And this is only one farm in one state; similar projects and those even larger are all over the country now.

As we were leaving the base of the turbine Matt said something so right on I had to write it down and quote him here:

“Pennsylvania is clearly making up for its dirty industrial past in places like Centralia with a Green future with this wind farm.”

Yes, they certainly are.

Why not check to see if your power company can get its supply from wind power and switch today? To see if Iberdrola supplies your company’s power check out this page. If they do not serve your area call your power company and ask! The more of us who request these natural resources the more likely they will be provided, lowering costs and helping the Earth one spinning blade at a time.

Resources for statistics:
National Wind Watch

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

From Burning Coal to Wind Power: A Weekend in PA Part I

Centralia, PA -- A City Consumed by Invisible Flames

This past weekend Matt and I spent three days in and around east central Pennsylvania. The original purpose of our trip was to attend a concert** however when we discovered the proximity of the show’s location (Hershey) to an area we have been interested in exploring for a couple years now (Centralia) it was clear we were supposed to make a weekend out of it. In this first part I will be sharing some information on Centralia and photos. Be sure to return tomorrow for Part II detailing the Locust Ridge Wind Farm.

Centralia, Pennsylvania is a town located above a vast number of coal mines and approximately forty years ago while the town was burning trash in a strip mine, the coal beneath the city caught fire. It was impossible to put out this fire and the residents have been all but forced to move as the Government has taken over this town for safety purposes; the levels of carbon monoxide at ground level are unsafe for extended periods.

Realizing the potential safety issues, the town has torn down all but a few homes where the staunchest of locals still remain. The Earth has created its own heaves and vents to release the steam from the burning fire. We were able to walk around much of the city without seeing another soul.

I commented to Matt that the desolate quiet reminded me of the movie I Am Legend; it was all very eerie especially considering the fire is slated to burn at least another 100 years. Over the course of that period there will literally be nothing of the original town which has not been overtaken by the vegetation of the Earth surrounding it.

Here are a couple photos to show the complete abandon of the town. Please note that the brush grows all the way to the street, in many cases nature has taken over sidewalks and concrete stairs that used to lead to well loved homes.

This crack began disrupting traffic in approximately 1983. This road (the former Rt. 61 & 54) was completely closed within the next five years. The sink in many spots surrounding this area are about 3-5 feet deep and nature has overtaken both the central divider and shoulder along this completely closed road.

This sight is apparent all over town. Sadly most homes that were here just five years ago have been razed to the ground as the residents have abandoned them. A quick Google search for Centralia, PA will bring up websites showing boarded up homes but they are long since torn down.

Here is a vent the Earth created on its own to release steam from the underground fire. The temperature here is over 120 degrees and will burn your hand if left in its path for too long. Rumor has it shoes and tires will melt if left in this area for too long.

Another abandoned two lane road. Nature has reclaimed her own home.

The encouraging news in all of this is that Pennsylvania is slowly beginning to amend its ways in the coal mining industry by opening their eyes to potential cleaner and more environmentally responsible options. On the way to our hotel we spied a fairly decent sized wind farm (large by northeast standards mind you). While in Centralia we happened to see it was up on a proximate ridge overlooking the town. Because I am constantly thinking about good stories for all of my readers my instant reaction was “get me there”!

Matt and I were able to navigate right to the base of one of the turbines and there was a big sign containing all the information I could ever need to research Locust Ridge Wind Farm. The parent company of this project is spreading the benefits of wind power all over the United States! Please stop back tomorrow for a complete accounting of the project (including some cool ‘to scale’ shots of us next to turbines).

**To read more about the concert we attended please feel free to visit my personal blog Random Lunacy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Have I Been Eating, Breathing and Absorbing Bleach?

Common household chlorine bleach, or as it is known in the scientific community sodium hypochlorite, is generally kept under lock and key away from children as it is commonly known to be extremely harmful if ingested. The typical bottle is outfitted with a child safety locking cap and warnings are written all over it to stay away. We keep these bottles under locked kitchen sinks, in basements or high up on laundry room shelves to avoid them being accidentally ingested.

Does this seem slightly ironic to anyone but me?

If the bleach is used in the laundry, on that stubborn tub stain or to sanitize countertops then rinsed down the drain, where do we think it goes? Sadly for many this is a typical “out of sight, out of mind” scenario.

We would not drink bleach or use it on our skin but each time we strain coffee through a white filter or put on clothing rinsed with the substance, that is essentially exactly what we are doing; we are just doing so in very small doses. But over time small doses can really add up to hurt ourselves and our planet.

This comic strip is from one of my favorites, who are now sadly out of commission, Rustle the Leaf.

Three ingredients can easily replace bleach around the house -- lemon juice, salt and baking soda.

For underarm stains pour a little lemon juice on, rub in some table salt and then place it out in the sun for a bit. A couple hours will do the trick then when it is washed voila, no more stain and no more odor!

For something like spilled red wine on an ivory countertop, concentrated lemon juice (as in squeeze a real lemon directly on there and rub it in with the lemon itself) and baking soda in a nice paste will take it up if allowed to sit, soak and dry.

These are just two examples; there is a slew of additional information out there for how to use these three ingredients as cleaning and sanitizing agents and no warning label is required!

Sure it might take a little patience in waiting for these natural cleaners to do their job effectively but then again, how does that saying go? Oh yeah, ‘it was worth the wait’! The planet and your own health will thank you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Featured Designer Zulugrass Jewelry

Recently I was introduced to an amazing product, Zulugrass jewelry, a part of the Leakey Collection. I was immediately impressed with the product as well as the company model and I figured it was high time for an accessory feature on Eco Fashion Friday!

The Leakey Collection offers employment to over 1200 Kenyan women and men, which helps to further support upwards of 10,000 people, so the utmost care is paid to the current lifestyle of the Massai peoples (they call the shots on if a work location is placed in the area). The company supports the communities as 5% of each purchase is given back in the forms of education, health and infrastructure.

The company also utilizes environmentally sustainable materials. The primary being naturally dyed, sun dried beads made out of local grass. Cool! Coordinating Czech glass accent beads give extra sparkle. They are water and sun-fade resistant, stretchy (one size fits all) and come in upwards of 150 different colors. Oh yeah, and the company boasts the elastic will wear up to six years worry free. Nice.

I tried two together, wrapped them around my wrist and put them to the test wearing them in the shower, rain and sun and they still look marvelous! I will likely wear them all summer, casually draped around my ankle.

The jewelry is showcased in shops and boutiques in over twenty countries internationally as well as in their online store and retails for around $3 - $11 per strand. Due to the humanitarian and philanthropic efforts, and considering each strand has upwards of 180, hand strung, Zulugrass and 40 plus glass beads, the cost is well within reason.

I am hard pressed to find anything not fantastic about this company or the jewelry as it is a simple, inexpensive design that is universal (dress up or down) and the efforts to support formerly failing communities go above and beyond amazing. With that said I am granting the Zulugrass jewelry line the prestigious Five Leaf Rating!

Keep up this amazing work promoting awesomeness, Leakey Collection, I am happy to be a part of it ♥love♥

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total Eclipse

I hope you were able to get out and check out this rare sighting yesterday as it lasted over five full minutes in some locations. Just in case you missed it, here is a post from Universe Today with photos and information on this vision of darkness. Click on the photo to be taken directly to the post.

And in honor of this total eclipse of the sun, here is the video and song by Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart from 1983. Enjoy!

Walking on Flip Flops Just Got a Whole New Meaning

My sister is a shoe lover, any type of shoes really, but in the summer she thoroughly enjoys wearing flip flops just like many of the rest of us. For holidays and special occasions I have given her little kitchy shoe related items and when she sees something adorable, be it shoe related or an actual pair of shoes, it is a must have for her. So when I got a text message from her the other day that one of her best friends had just given her a doormat made from recycled flip flops I knew she was in heaven!

My immediate response of course was asking her to send me as much information as possible so I could research it and share it with all of you! I found that Uncommon Goods not only carries this mat made from recycled flip flop scraps but they also create barrels and baskets from the material and carry so many different upcycled items it would be impossible to list them all!

The company is based out of Brooklyn, NY and provides exactly what their name suggests -- Uncommon Goods! They stock everything from Home Décor to Children’s gifts and literally just about everything in between. I could get lost on their website for hours that is for sure! But not in a bad way, it is easy to navigate and there is even a recently viewed items box for ease of shopping.

The cost of this mat is either $20 (small mat 26" L x 17" W x .75" H) or $40 (large mat 35" L x 22" W x .75" H) which is fairly reasonable considering the handmade nature as well as use of recycled foam rubber. The mat is made in the Philippines and each one will vary slightly from the next in color and size due simply to the nature of the material acquisition.

My only concerns are that the mats are produced using Fair Trade practices and that the shipping cost is not revealed up front. Due to all of the above I am granting the Uncommon Goods Flip Flop Mat a Three and One Half Leaf Rating!

This is an extremely cute way to give a nod to the planet and your love for adorable shoes. Keep up the great work providing unique products with a planetary focus!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Grownup Noise - Re-Fried and Back on the Road

The Grownup Noise is a Boston band which happens to care so much about the planet that last year before their summer musical expedition they converted an old van to run on veggie oil and used it exclusively to tour all the way to California and back. The tour in the van was a rousing success so they are packing up for a repeat this summer, starting this Friday (dates at the end of the interview).

I recently touched base with Adam (or as some might call him, ‘Mr. Press’) and he was anxious to share where The Grownup Noise is now, with relation to the band, the van and their music, since we spoke last summer.

For those who have not read the full story, I highly recommend checking out all of the following links before diving into this interview:

Touring with a Side of Fries: Part I - The Band Gets a Van
Kicking Off the Veggie Van Tour in Boston
Touring with a Side of Fries: Part II - Hitting the Road

I think the first most important question everyone is dying to know the answer to is - have you named the van yet?

Yes we have, although she kinda came named. It’s an old 1988 E-350 and it was converted into a luxury conversion van. The company that converted it kinda named it as it says on the side of the van “Lorain Motor Coach”. I’m not sure if that’s the name of the company or not, but that’s her name, Lorain.

Have you taken her around town since last summer's tour?

Yes, as much as I can. She’s only really good for trips over forty-five minutes though as it takes ten minutes just to heat up, so we use the van for all the regional dates -- Northampton, Portland, ME, Albany, etc.

I’m actually typing this in the van as we drive back from the Cape, and are running on veggie oil.

What is the most common reaction or question you are still getting from fans and bystanders?

I think that a lot of people have at least heard of the concept by now, as alternative fuels got so much press last summer as the prices inched towards five dollars a gallon. It seemed like everywhere you went you couldn’t escape an article on alternative fuels.
It’s kinda sad in some ways that alternative fuels get such lower press when gas is affordable.

Most people either don’t quite understand what I am talking about when I explain it, or they understand mechanics and don’t believe me. My new roommate is a diesel mechanic and he didn’t believe me when I first explained what kind of van I had. Now he is a total believer and can’t understand why this isn’t talked about amongst mechanics more. He is also the sole reason that our van currently works and we owe him everything!

How has the band evolved since last summer? Talk to us about your members and what has gone on there.

Well, the band is doing well and musically I feel like we have evolved a good deal, and in a really good and natural way. Paul’s song writing continues to change and amaze me. Before he would write new songs and we would spend forever arranging them only to get really bored with them or feel like they didn’t represent or sound like what we heard in our heads. I think that everyone in the band has heard what we could sound like for a while now and we are finally realizing this. I feel like we are much happier with our songs now, and they will have a much longer shelf life and be something that we will want to play for a while.

As far as band members go, we have changed some drummers. Absolutely no bad stories or anything, and everyone has become a member of the extended band family, it’s just that life gets in the way sometimes, and playing in an original band is one of the largest time commitments and serious relationships you can engage in.

The drummer we did our last summer tour with, Attis, got an offer from his first band, Eli “Paperboy” Reid to go and tour Europe with him during November, and Attis would have been a fool not to jump at that. Then Eli just blew up, got signed to Virgin Records, and Attis is busier than ever. We go to his shows with him though and catch up as much as we can. Then we started playing with Aine, but she had to go back to Japan for the summer, and hopefully we’ll start playing with her again in the fall.

For the tour we’re playing with our original drummer Kyle, who now lives in LA, but wanted to take a break from the city and hit the road with us for a month. At this rate we’ll hopefully have drummers in ever city and we’ll just have a huge extended drummer family!

For those who did not hear about your infamous route 93 breakdown, are you willing to talk about it? Did it change your mind about driving a 20+-year-old van?

More than willing! We had one of our belts break, which then took out another. Because of that we lost all power and our breaks…yikes! So, I’m probably always way too paranoid about weird van sounds and such but she actually does really well most of the time. Although she is old she only has 13,000 miles on her and the older couple that I bought it from really babied it. I have been assured by my roomie mechanic that most diesels last forever.

Like I mentioned, my roommate is a lifesaver and fixed the belts for us, as well as replacing most of the parts on the van in anticipation of the tour.

As sketchy as all of our touring vehicles have been we have never missed a show on tour, and the show we missed because of the belt was our first in ever in our four years.

Are you going back to any cities you toured through last summer and if so do you expect to find their grease is still free for the taking?

We always try to book our tours so that we hit most of the same cities, so we can continue to build upon previous tours. Last year I was able to keep a detailed log of every restaurant that we went to that was friendly and gave us grease, so I’m really hoping that pays off this year.

I think that things are actually going to be 100% easier this time, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Because fuel prices dropped so much there isn’t the same intensity that existed last summer, when grease was so valuable. There was money to be paid turning it into bio-diesel and there were a ton of start up companies that were paying restaurants for it, so that make our case tough.

I feel like a lot of those companies have gone out of business though as the price has dropped and the profit isn’t the same. For example, as I mentioned I am writing this as driving back from the Cape. We just stopped and got some Thai food and I noticed two full containers of grease on the restaurant’s back porch. I inquired and the cook was very excited to give them to me, he said that somebody came every week to collect his grease last summer, but that stopped suddenly when the price of gas dropped and he hasn’t been able to find anyone since. He even has a grease barrel that the guy dropped off and now the company has disappeared.

This is good for bands but not good for the immediate future of the green economy. That’s a much longer discussion though...

Talk to us about your Boston band grease collective -- Grease for the Arts. How did that get started? Who else is actively involved? Is it still going strong?

It’s definitely not an official organization quite yet. Again, a lot of that is because of the economy and at the time we were preparing ourselves to have to fight for grease in Boston and to fend off both the rendering companies and the environmental startups, which are never as environmental as, they seem (again, another long conversation).

But I digress… Here’s a quick explanation of why we were putting our collective together and why we thought it was very urgent at the time of last fall.

I could write a book on the politics of grease collection, but here is a quick history of grease collection in the US. This is a fascinating world to me, and have educated myself the best I can, but if this sounds boring please skip ahead to our shameless tour kick off show plug, ha!

Basically used veggie oil is big business and it’s actually traded on the commodities markets under “yellow grease”. For many years rendering companies collected it, and sold it to other companies, many of whom would boil it down and turn it into dog and cat food, or other random things.

There were the occasional environmental folks and bands that would collect veggie oil too, but we were small guys to the rendering companies and they mostly left us alone. Because every restaurant needed to have their grease disposed of, and since it was worth money but not that much, rendering companies actually charged them a monthly fee for pick up and then made money off selling the grease too. This is still the case in some places (mostly the mid-west).

Then as the price of gas rose, veggie oil became very valuable as you can make bio-diesel from used veggie oil (although we run on straight waste oil, as our van is converted to do such). Environmental start-ups popped up all over the place offering to pay restaurants to take their grease, as they would then covert it into bio-diesel that they could sell for 4 dollars a gallon. A battle ensued between [those who] render and environmental companies for a bit; both were even hiring private detectives in some parts of the country to prosecute anyone that would take their grease.

Now, it’s good on a lot of levels that Environmental Grease collection companies started popping up, but they often were nowhere near Boston and would drive to the city in large vetches that were not converted. So, they were using fossil fuels to pick up bio fuels from far away…[doesn’t it make] more sense to just keep them in the community?

This was when we realized that the local users and bands were being squeezed out, as we couldn’t offer to pay for it. So, we wanted to start a collective and sell it to a few local businesses as something that they could be a part of that would give back to the community. Some of the other people involved even talked [to] the folks who got the tax credit for the movie industry in MA, as we were thinking that would be a good thing to offer restaurants that donated us their grease.

What has been the most successful strategy though has been just educating local businesses that are involved with both the local music scene, and the communities that [they] are located in, that they are making a choice with how they want to dispose of their waste oil. We have been fortunate to find several that are more interested in supporting locals than a few bucks from sketchy companies. And, as I mentioned, things have gotten easier as the price of gas has dropped.

Right now the collective is just a bunch of musicians and bands that tour on grease, and we just share some resources and help each other out if we need some. I’m lucky to have found a large organization that uses a lot of grease that is totally excited about what we are doing. In the future, and especially if the price goes back up, we talked about having it be more of a membership organization. That would involve us collecting the grease and [then] others who use grease, but who didn’t want to have the hassle of collecting it, could just join. The focus will always be to keep it in the community and to cut back on fossil fuel use.

Where can we find more information on the band, your tour dates, or listen to some of your music?

Well, you can always find us on our website where we have tour dates and you can sign up for the mailing list.
The Grownup Noise

Of course we are also on MySpace.

And Facebook.

And Twitter.

So where and when does this summer's tour kick off?

I’m glad you asked….

We’re playing a tour kick off show at The Middle East Upstairs on Friday, July 24th

The show starts at 9pm and we’re on at around 10:30. We are playing with some other awesome bands including local favorites, Brendan Boogie and the Best Intentions, the amazing Winterpills (from Northampton), and Varsity Drag. It is Varsity Drag’s CD release and they include original members of the Lemonheads. Very exciting!

From there we leave for the first tour date, Columbus Ohio on Mon. the 27th. We then start working our way over to the west coast. We’re playing 20+ dates and hitting almost every major (and non-major) city, so check out tour dates and if you have friends that really like things that smell like slightly burnt French Fries and Pad Thai, send them our way! We’re very nice and love to give tours of the van too. All of our current tour dates and a ton of info are up on both our website and MySpace.

Tour Dates as of this interview include:

July 24th Boston -- The Middle East Upstairs
July 27th Columbus, OH -- Rumba Café
July 28th Athens, OH -- Casa Cantina
July 29th Chicago -- Darkroom
August 3rd Minneapolis -- Acadia Café
August 5th Billings, MT -- Off the Leaf
August 6th Spokane, WA -- Caterina Winery
August 7th Portland, OR -- Red Room
August 8th Seattle, WA -- Comet Tavern (4pm early show)
August 8th Tacoma, WA -- Doyle’s Public House (late show)
August 10th Santa Cruz, CA -- The Crow’s Nest
August 11th San Fran, CA -- Hotel Utah
August 12th Sacramento, CA -- Marlyin’s on K
August 16th San Diego -- Brick by Brick
August 18th Los Angeles -- Spaceland
August 19th Tucson, AZ -- Club Congress
August 20th Santa Fe, NM -- The Cowgirl
August 21st Albuquerque, NM -- Atomic Cantina
August 24th Denver, CO -- The Hi-Dive
August 26th Nashville, TN -- Springwater Supperclub
August 28th Asheville, NC -- Bobo Gallery
August 29th Washington, DC -- Red and Black Bar
August 30th NYC -- Rockwood Music Hall

The Grownup Noise is Paul Hansen (lead vocal, guitar), Katie Franich (cello), Kyle Crane (drums) and Adam Sankowski (bass).

[Jenn’s side note: I have seen these guys play and they are awesome! Last summer when I interviewed Adam (as found in the links above -- read them) I went to their show simply to get one of those van tours and chat all things grease. By the end of the night I was a fan of their van and their music! Get out and see them, seriously, you will not be disappointed.]

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shock and Awe on a Bike

Seeing what skills people in this world have sometimes just blows me away. While on Twitter earlier this morning I happened across a tweet from one of my new favorite daily inspirations, Zen Habits, who linked to this amazing video of Danny MacAskill showing off his impressive skills with a bicycle.

The first minute or so is painful to watch as it looks like maybe it will all be bloopers of this guy’s misadventures with fences but keep with it and revel in the fact that your jaw can not open any wider! Too cool!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Eco-Fashion Friday Feature - What Makes Eco Fashion Trendy?

This week I while researching for an amazing designer or two to feature, I came across an article regarding just why eco is taking such a strong foothold among those who work with textiles right now. It was made clear eco fashion is not just for tee shirts and jeans wearing folks but those who desire haute couture as well. Is it possible to have fashion made from ecologically responsible fabrics and materials parade down the runway as worn by supermodels? You bet, according to top designer Richie Rich.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Top Designers Embrace Eco-Friendly Fabrics
One of the highlights of FutureFashion was a stunning pink-and-yellow skirt made from corn fiber by uber-cool Heatherette designer Richie Rich.

“It’s definitely something we’re going to continue toying with,” Rich told reporters. “People often perceive the fashion world as superficial, so it’s great to work with materials that are actually good for the environment. I had my doubts, but when we actually saw the fabric swatches we were blown away. They were gorgeous, and it wasn't hard to design with them.”

Bucking the trend that high fashion has to mean phony is a good reason to go with environmentally responsible choices but the end user who purchases this design will not only be making a fashion statement, they will be making a planetary one too and that is the smartest choice of all. I applaud these designers, like Rich, who have vision enough to begin working with more responsible choices and in more responsible ways.

Being Green means showing love for the planet. And fashion? Well being fashionable is always in fashion. It has been said before but still holds true - Green is the new black.

To read the rest of the fantastic article which showcases a few more amazing designers, please go directly to the link.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sharing Is Caring

Last night we had my mom over for dinner and it was a fantastic night full of laughs and awesome conversation, catching up and sharing the daily happenings of all our lives. As a housewarming gift she gave us a copy of Christina Pirello’s vegan cookbook Cooking the Whole Foods Way which I must say I am already completely excited to tear into and start creating from because just about everything in it sounds fantastic and mom has made a dish or two for us already at her place and they were fabulous (Leaf Rating review to follow!). In addition to the book she brought a couple other goodies but let me back up to explain them all.

A few months ago I purchased tickets to see Jason Mraz on his upcoming Gratitude Café Tour when he comes through Boston. Because Matt has gone with me to a countless number of this man’s shows, not to mention that we will see him open for Dave Matthews a couple weeks before the Boston show, he declined going this time so I invited my mom. To somewhat prepare her for the experience I figured it was only right to let her borrow his most recent studio release We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things and give it a listen. She brought it back last night saying she may even buy it, that it is really good. I had a feeling she would have that reaction! As she handed it back to me she also pulled a couple other cd’s out of her bag.

Back in April my mom and her best friend Eileen hosted their own birthday bash at a shnitzy function hall complete with a cash bar, full buffet style meal and live entertainment. They kept the entertainment portion to themselves for months as a surprise. There was much guessing among us who the performer might be -- Five O’Clock Shadow, John Gorka, Vance Gilbert, Ed Gerhard or perhaps Christine Lavin? The night came and a musician I had never heard of before got up to sing and play his guitar and, along with everyone else in the room, he blew me away. His name is David Roth.

David is a folk genre singer with seven albums available and the songs he performed that night were upbeat and fun selections from his catalogue. One song in particular, “New House in Orleans”, stood out as it was all about construction of his home on Cape Cod; after completing a 3-1/2 year rehab ourselves it resonated with me and Matt. I had been meaning to pick up one of his albums since that night but had not gotten around to it. Well last night my mom pulled a few of his cd’s out of her bag of tricks and said I could have my pick of one; David had been kind enough to give both of the gals a box set as a thanks for having him and some of the discs were duplicates to her collection. Score!

I scanned the discs for the song and found it on his album Think Twice a two disc set. I was so excited to load the discs onto iTunes this morning and give this new music a listen so when I got to the second to last song on the first disc titled “What Can I Do” I simply smiled. I would like to share the lyrics here and encourage everyone to check out this talented singer and songwriter as well then get out and do something awesome for someone else today!

“What Can I Do”
by David Roth

I heard somebody had a hard day out there
I had a hard one too
We could count ‘em all up and see who wins
Who do you think would have more
Me or you?

Feeling sorry might work, but not for long
We don’t have that luxury of time
Got an idea, might help us both
And it starts with a question of mine

What can I do for you today
How can I help in some small way
It would be such a gift to me, its true
If you’d let me do one little thing for you
What can I do

There’s a whole lotta things that I can’t make
I can’t build a house or meditate
But I know there’s one thing I can create
I can make some time

Tho the older I get, the faster it flies
I spend it like crazy, no surprise
But when my pockets are empty
And my credit’s declined
I’ll know that at least I gave you some time


Such a noisy and crazy Earth out there
We are neighbors in crisis everywhere
Just in case you were thinking no one cares
Someone may prove you wrong

People all over this world need love
Some won’t be lucky to get enough
That’s why I’m hoping that you’ll understand
How we’ll both get ahead if I give you a hand


Thanks for the inspiration David, can not wait to pick up more of your wonderful tunes. ♥love♥

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I don’t know where Mary, Mary came from and what those silver bells or cockle shells had to do with ensuring a plentiful garden, but here in the United States crops have been facing the plight of late blight since the early 1990’s and this year in particular it has become extremely disconcerting to north eastern, mid western and central east coast farmers.

This disease is a water mold which is transmitted through the spreading of spores via any possible means (wind, rain, contact with mechanical equipment, etc) and it tends to thrive in moist conditions. The areas of concern have faces exceptionally soggy late spring and early summer so farmers and home gardeners alike are watching their potatos (the Irish famine in the mid 1800’s was due to late blight) and tomatos.

If late blight is spotted on either potato or tomato leaves (light green spots that resemble drops of water and are frequently found nearer to the tip of the leaf), it is advisable to completely dispose of the entire plant and not compost it as the spores can remain viable for some time after the plant has been uprooted and then can spread on to still healthy plants.

In order to prevent the spread of blight it is important to use a fungicide that will discourage growth and spread of the mold spores. Thankfully, there are organic, pent and human friendly ways to accomplish this. Copper and sulfur are organic fungicides (although still pose some risks so always follow package instructions and proceed with caution) and can be used to inhibit the mold. In addition to health concerns of a sulfur based fungicide (can irritate skin and/or lungs), there are restrictions on weather and time of season that it is applied.

While researching this article I found only one company who creates a totally organic product which provides mold prevention but is not sulfur or copper based, Serenade Garden Disease Control. Available since 2005, Serenade is made up of cultivated microorganisms (Bacillus subtilis) which safely battle the mold spores. The product is safe to be used around children and pets and will not harm the surrounding plants or waterways. It is harmful if inhaled however so, again, precautions should always be followed explicitly to ensure safety.

Staying on top of gardening, maintaining a healthy balance between wet and dry and properly treating plants with organic and natural based disease prevention methods will mean eating fresh and yummy, healthy fruits and veggies as well as the beauty of thriving plants and flowers all season long.

What do you use to ensure your garden stays healthy? Do you compost?

Photo Courtesy Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Paperless World?

This morning I spent a little time updating some of my bills addresses since the move there were a few that fell by the wayside and I didn’t have a chance to update them until now. When I went in to change my address with Verizon (my cell phone carrier) a little box popped up encouraging me to go paperless. It looked like this:

I already get email reminders that my bill is due so I figured it really was high time to make the leap into total paperless billing. It felt so good that when I set up my new account with my cable and internet provider Comcast I took full advantage of their ecoBill program. I will never receive a single paper bill from them, in fact the only thing in their folder in my filing cabinet is the signed installation work order. Hooray!

It occurred to me that we had 100% wind power supplied electric in our last apartment and I did search my new provider’s website to see if they do the same but alas they are not quite there yet and the old company is not available in my new area. I did however enroll in their paperless billing program!

That was three down and only one to go because our car insurance and student loans are all paperless already. I was a little bummed to discover that Toyota Financial doesn’t offer paperless billing. I put an inquiry out to Customer Service to see if perhaps I was just missing it on the site or maybe it was a special request thing only. Here is to the hope that it is something I can accomplish asap!

Another thing we are planning to do this week is both Matt and I will be looking into again. We have talked about this before and it was successful for Melissa. With a new move comes a small reprieve from the unwanted junk mail and then boom, it seems to hit again all at once. Hopefully will help get rid of everything before it even starts.

It might be small steps and I might be way behind the curve on accomplishing this but I am just happy to be able to say I am personally reducing the pounds of paper that come in and out of my own house every year.

Are you doing paperless billing too? What other ways have you reduced your own addiction to paper? How do you recycle your shredded paper?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Daffodils by William Wordsworth

Poetry is a wonderful way to lighten a mood and lift spirits. On this soon to be sunny Sunday morning here at Green Leaf Reviewer I thought it would be nice to share a sweet poem that describes just how nature can make us feel happy no matter what our prior mood.

by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

What kind of nature makes you happy? Whatever it is I hope you are able to go out and enjoy it on this wonderful day! ♥love♥

Friday, July 10, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Featured Designer Jennifer Locke Designs

Last week when I briefly touched on the children’s tee shirts it occurred to me that we have yet to feature a fashion designer who creates eco fashions for kids. So when I came across Jennifer Locke Designs adorable bloomers for little girls it seemed only right to give her shop some love!

Jenn, as she refers to herself in her shop announcement, uses all vintage fabrics when she is creating these little bloomers. Upcycling at its finest! The photo above is of a pair created from a former sun suit. Her price is right in line with other shops that create this type of clothing but for a handmade children’s item the price is amazing -- most of her pieces are either $15 or $18. She ships internationally as well and the cost is very reasonable.

Most of the bloomers are available in sizes ranging from newborn up to 4T and she will even create custom orders utilizing client selected patterns or embellishments. JLD also will accommodate wholesale orders and her winter stock (recycled sweater mittens) has been featured in galleries. Her feedback is 100% positive after being in business for two years.

With a great eye on protecting the bottoms of little girls everywhere as well as the planet I am granting a Three and a Half Leaf Rating to Jennifer Locke Designs!

Keep up the amazing work, from one Jenn to another!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green

Kermit the Frog shared with us forty years ago just how awesome it is to accept ourselves unconditionally, and he encouraged us to see the rest of the world through those same tolerant eyes. Kermit is green and he at first is unhappy that he is the same as the trees or mountains, unhappy that he can blend in so easily with the rest of the world to be potentially passed over.

There are days when all of us feel green, in the sense of this concern with being ordinary, but in the end Kermit accepts that being green makes him the perfect version of who he is. Enjoy your own green today!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Inspiration from Anthony Fernando

This is a quick little pick me up for your Tuesday afternoon. I hope your week is going fantastic and you never quit even if, and especially when, it seems really hard.

Monday, July 6, 2009

An Eco Friendly Pillow from EcoTex (?)

My title for this blog was created prior to my researching for this article and now I am slightly mystified so let me share the current situation and hopefully someone can shed some light.

Yesterday Matt and I went to one of the big box stores to pick up a few items for our new home as we desired to spend a little less money but acquire everything we needed in one location. (This is our tradeoff, less gas driving around to many stores but not shopping at local places). One of the items on our list -- pillows. Ours are so old I barely remember purchasing them and so it was time to change.

Perusing the aisles and squishing a whole bunch wrapped in plastic can be a mind boggling experience as there are so many to choose from. I saw standard, queen & king sized, medium or firm squishiness and prices all over the map depending if the item in question was a brand name, memory foam, hybrid (foam / poly fill), feather fill or store brand. We settled on a couple standard sized, standard squish ones in a low to mid price range. The felt like the right choice for us and we pushed the cart on.

Rounding the corner of the next aisle however opened up another row of pillows. My eyes immediately went right to this pillow

Reading the package I learned this pillow is filled with fiber made from recycled water bottles, the plastic packaging will begin to biodegrade in about three months and that the cotton cover is bleached using 100% hydrogen peroxide. Best of all the price was exactly the same as the others we had selected so we put the originals back and purchased the EcoTex pillow instead, feeling great bout our choice.

Until today.

I always like to link back to the company website (especially when doing a Leaf Rating Review) so since there was none listed on the package, I Googled EcoTex. The top selection was this website:
Upon reading through it definitely is not the correct location so I went back to Google and began searching for anything to get the right website. When nothing produced the desired results, I grabbed the pillow and read through the tag hoping for something.

The parent company that makes the pillow I have is named Springs Global so I looked them up. Not only could I not find an actual website for these folks but I must have visited over twenty websites and found nothing related to a pillow named EcoTex other than this Natures Sleep pillow which is not only completely different looking but is not even close to the same description.

As a total last resort I went to the big box store’s website and searched for this product in every possible manner but to no avail. Is this package from the alleged company EcoTex is nothing more than a clever way to get people to purchase the product or does the company really exist and creates recycled water bottle fill and biodegradable bags? I suddenly became very aware of the fact that it is quite possible I was duped by some form of greenwashing. This does not please me as I am a careful consumer who enjoys reporting back on as much great stuff as possible for all of you readers who enjoy learning. In this case the learning was in the doing.

I would love nothing more than to be completely incorrect and have to print a retraction to my allegations of greenwashing by a company that does not exist so please if you belong to this company, recognize the photo of my pillow package or simply know the website I could not locate in all my searching please let me know immediately!

Unfortunately I will be unable to grant the Leaf Rating I wanted to grant as I am unsure as to the validity of the claims made by this product.

Today’s motto? Essentially, live and learn:

Study, learn and purchase armed with as much knowledge as possible but be aware that sometimes even then the final result might still be undesirable.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bamboo Might Just Be the Coolest Substance Ever

Readers of this blog know that I love all things bamboo from tee shirts to flooring but there are so many more amazing things created from this rapidly renewing resource it is almost mind boggling! I started to research just what we could begin using in our day to day lives and the answer is if you use it, there is likely a manufacturer who will construct it out of bamboo.

Since my internet access is still moderately limited until later this week when our network is up and running full steam, I am going to simply link-list a whole bunch of cool stuff here. I hope everyone has a chance to check out these fun, funky, and functional products created from this strong and hearty grass.



Bedding (side note -- bamboo is inherently antibacterial & soft, perfect for bedding!)




Makeup Applicator Brushes

Garden Gloves (for men!)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Eco Fashion Friday Featured Designer Revenge Is

Last week I featured the Revenge Is tee as part of the Eco Fashion Friday series and while researching the company I was so utterly impressed that I knew they deserved their own review and feature!

Right away the tag line “Making activism fashionable” greets you as you enter their website. They could not be more right on. Utilizing organic cotton in their tees is just the beginning. How about recycling 3-5 plastic bottles and after melting them down turning it into a fiber that creates clothing. Not a joke, these folks are using upwards of 65% RPET (recycled plastic) in their shirts. A market tote they sell is 100% RPET, now that is eco-fashion! They create tees for men, women and kids to spread the word about environmentally responsible practices.

One might think the cost for such innovative design would be through the roof but overall their price is right in line with other graphic tee designers as they hover in the $30 range. Not bad for keeping a whole bunch of plastic out of landfills. The shirts are screen printed using soy based inks and the children’s tees also contain no PVC, Phthalates, Formaldehyde, Heavy Metal, or APEO to ensure the health of kids.

Then there is the shipping method they use -- all tees are shipped in Tyvek bags to reduce weight, potential of damage and conserve space on the delivery trucks. Oh yeah and they encourage reuse of the bags by turning them inside out but if you don’t want to they allow for returns of the bag so they can properly recycle it either at Tyvek’s facility in Virginia or at Revenge Is offices in Los Angeles, California.

The way I see it, Revenge Is…a Five Leaf Rating! Top honors for such a top notch company doing all they can to make a difference in this eco fight.

Keep on keeping on and get your Revenge! ♥love♥

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Replacing Wood and Plastic in the Building Trades

I have been posting a few odd rubberized items on Eco Fashion Fridays recently, such as belts made from recycling the inner tube of a bicycle tire, but could car tires actually be turned into something we use to construct homes out of? This is just one of the newest products in a family of wood-replacement innovation in the building trades which have sprung up in recent years. Especially for concerns of deforestation, as well as preservation of waterways and reducing the use of petroleum products, new concepts for replacing wood or plastic are being welcomed with open arms in construction.

Most of us have some form of wood outside our homes such as a deck, railing, stair treads, etc., and the recommended wood to use for such a project is built to last by undergoing a process known as pressure treating. This process ensures the wood will hold up longer against weather and is resistant to insects. There is only one problem, the process involves treating wood with inorganic arsenic, a known poison. Not only can this be harmful to skin and should not be ingested but the chemical can potentially run off and corrode surrounding soil which in turn might soon end up in waterways compromising the safety of the liquid and potentially harming marine and wildlife. Yikes!

So what are some of the options?

One product which has been on the market for a while is called Trex. This substance is created by fusing reclaimed sawdust and plastic (grocery store bags) into a solid plank that looks similar to wood but will never warp, splinter, need to be sanded, painted or stained and is inherently resistant to insects and sun damage. The product is extremely dense and will hold up just about forever. I can personally speak for this product as I used it for my old home’s deck and it was a dream to clean (broom sweep), easy to shovel (no splintering) and never needed anything for maintenance.

Re-Tread Products (RTP) is going even further and using reclaimed car and truck tires to construct their “lumber” which they call Tire Logs. These logs are made from strips of tread that are claimed after removing the sidewalls from a standard tire. They are woven together and rolled to create a flattened looking log. Although the company is years away from the ability to utilize such a product in construction of a home there are already thoughts as to how it could best be used in earthquake prone areas, as levees for flood prevention, decking, and even as a sound dampening device along major highways.

One of my very favorite items available that not only takes the place of wood or plastic but some quarried stone, is paper. I came across a company in my travels called KlipTech who not only provides commonly recognized paper countertops for a kitchen or bath but also paper based exterior siding, decking for skateboard ramps and a plethora of products that take on the appearance of wood. The siding is a product called EcoClad and it is a composite material made from 100% post consumer recycled paper and bamboo fiber which creates a dense and durable material suitable for all environments.

As innovation continues rise in the realm of reuse, more and more companies like these will take on the challenges of creating functional and stable products that take advantage of turning something formerly loved into something new that is safe and efficient to satisfy our basic needs. I think major kudos should be bestowed upon companies such as these for their ingenuity and dedication to furthering the lifecycle of items already on the planet.